Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Doesn't get it

I was telling a prof in our department about my new super-cool research idea yesterday, and we had this conversation:

"Hmm... well, you'll need to get some preliminary data before you can start applying for grants."

"But I'll need funding before I can get preliminary data. This island is in the middle of NOWHERE. The language is UNDOCUMENTED. I can put a lot in the grant application about the context, though, and why the language would be important to study, and how endangered it is."

"I think you really need to do some fieldwork first. Why don't you go there for your next holiday?"

[pause while I look disbelieving]

"No, really. I mean, you're planning to go overseas this summer for a holiday, right?"

"No, actually."

"Really? [Now it's his turn for the disbelieving look.] Why ever not?"

"Well, without a job, overseas travel is a bit expensive."

"I think you should go anyway. After all, it's tax deductible."

"If you earn enough to be PAYING tax."

Isn't it awesome to have a career where you need to work for free for years before there's a chance someone will pay you to do it?

In a similar vein, I'm helping organise a big linguistics event for high school students. It's a national thing, and simultaneous events will take place at each university in Australia. We just had a organisers' teleconference, and it struck me that not only were we all volunteering our time and energy to get this thing off the ground, but most universities were even charging us to use their rooms and facilities for it, and the university where we keep our funds (raised by us) is skimming a percentage off the top. Standard practice, wouldn't you know?

Funny, because last I heard, outreach to local high schools was something universities were meant to be quite keen on. And we're doing it for them. For FREE.



Bardiac said...

Yep. /nod!

Sometimes you can talk deans into picking up room rental costs, though. They have a different budget; the people who rent rooms don't worry so much about university goals, but about paying the people who set up chairs and clean up.

ScienceGirl said...

You know they tell me *service* is part of the job. I am just hoping that *salary* will become part of the job some day too.

StyleyGeek said...

Bardiac, I'm not sure that would happen here. Our local area is running a huge deficit and the Dean basically says "no" to funding requests automatically. Yet somehow higher up there seems to be pots of money if you know the magic words to use.

Sciencegirl, I love the way you put that.

My ex-supervisor was telling me the other day that she had this epiphany when she realised recently that she is officially half-time, yet works 60 hours a week (paid for 17.5). So she is cutting her hours by half and saying, "nya nya nya nya-nya" to requests for service and anything beyond what she is strictly required to do.

Of course, she has tenure :)

And if I refused to work beyond what I am strictly paid to do, I would be doing.. uh... nothing. And would never get a job.


liz said...

I never have understood that. You need a union.

StyleyGeek said...

A union for who, though? Wannabe academics? I am a member of the National Tertiary Education Union, but I think they only care if you are being exploited by your job, rather than if you don't have a job, but are choosing to be exploited for free because it's your best chance of getting a job in the future :)